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Africa is Us: Youth and the Diaspora Discussion

by staff

During a three-day conference at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., a meeting of the minds took place during a youth summit with multiple discussions on the diaspora and youth.

Michigan Chronicle Staff Writer and Real Times Media Writer Sherri Kolade ventured to the nation’s capital for the three-day U.S.-African Leaders Summit, December 13-15. While just a five-minute drive from the White House, the summit addressed food security, economic and technological advancements, and mobilizing youth among many other topics. This three-part series will cover high-level aspects of the summit that hosted 49 African leaders and numerous U.S. state officials and leaders including President Joe Biden. 

Part two. 

Black American. African American. Those of African or Afro-Caribbean descent – in many ways we are all one.

Every one of the African diaspora, hailing directly or indirectly from the motherland, makes up a rich and robust – yet complex – history spanning over 400 years ago since the beginning of the Transatlantic Slave Trade that ripped families apart, stolen them away from their homeland, their mother tongue, deeply-cherished traditions, and cultural ties.

The horrors, history, and hope buried within the souls of these soon-to-be enslaved people make up the legendary folklore and stories passed down generations later – taught in schools, in homes, and gracing the bookshelves.

The Diaspora

How does one bottle up this experience akin to a violent rebirth of a new nation scattered abroad by force or choice through immigration and other pathways? 

The late poet Maya Angelou summed it up perfectly through her lens as a Black American.

“For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”

It’s true—we can’t know the future unless we fully understand the past and present.

During a multi-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit from Tuesday, December 13 – Thursday, December 15 in Washington D.C., the heavily-anticipated summit addressed security and stability needs for the burgeoning continent and the Diaspora’s overall impact. 

President Joe Biden invited 49 African countries and the African Union to attend the Summit December 13-15 in the nation’s capital with many of the summit’s events live-streamed at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Biden said during that summit that as vice president, serving with then-President Barack Obama, their administration hosted the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including U.S.-Africa Business Forum in 2014 and this one was overdue.

The Biden-Harris Administration is a big proponent of engaging the African Diaspora.

“The African diaspora community is one of America’s most diverse communities, inclusive of people who speak multiple languages, come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and practice various faiths,” their administration noted in a press release. “While unique on some fronts, culturally, people of African descent also share similar values: supporting their families, creating opportunities for their communities, and contributing to America’s growth and prosperity.”

Since the 1970s, the African immigrant population in the United States has roughly doubled every decade. Through employment and educational exchange programs, many African immigrant communities have flourished in the United States, building a new generation of highly educated and socially conscious Africans throughout our country. Representing nearly 2 million first-generation Americans, it is one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups.

Biden will bring to the presidency decades of foreign policy experience and a demonstrated commitment to Africa. He will renew the United States’ mutually respectful engagement toward Africa with a bold strategy that reaffirms our commitment to supporting democratic institutions on the continent by ensuring the U.S. Government and U.S. Foreign Service reflect the rich composition of the American citizenry, including African diaspora professionals.

The Youth

The Biden-Harris Administration will also continue the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, (initiated by the U.S. Department of State in 2010 under then-President Barack Obama) and deepen America’s commitment to engage with Africa’s dynamic young leaders.

Within the next two years, the Biden-Harris administration would have invested more than $1 billion in education and youth programming in Africa, which will allow us to further our partnership with African academic institutions and the private sector on education and research in science, technology, engineering, and math. And it will allow us to expand our signature program for YALI.

Biden announced during the summit one more step in that direction through the creation of an advisory council on engagement with the African diaspora in the United States, as the nation’s capital looks to further solidify ties with the continent from this week forward.

Biden signed an executive order to create the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States, which will inform the president on many issues.

“African voices are essential to solving global problems. To elevate these voices, one of our primary focuses is to widen our circle of engagement to include African Diaspora communities,” Banks said.

During the Summit’s Young Leaders Forum, Tuesday, December 13 held at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked the crowd full of youth, delegates, African presidents, and other leaders for all they do to “strengthen the bonds of African countries and the United States.”

“Now, it is fitting that we are meeting here at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a national treasure. On its top floor – and I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to visit, but on the top floor of the museum there is an exhibit called “Cultural Expressions.” It explores, in part, the contributions of the African diaspora and how its members have shaped American culture and life – through fashion, the arts, dance, language, food, music,” Blinken said. “As this Museum shows, the United States continues to be enriched … by the Diaspora.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY-05).

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY-05) said during the summit that he’s proud to be part of the Diaspora as a Black American with roots in Africa, specifically the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone, to which he received a rousing applause.

“I took all of Africa,” he said of accepting the continent as his own, adding that the Summit is a “big moment.” 

“You know this is an important moment,” Meeks, the first African American to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee said. “I let my colleagues know we are moving Africa from the back burner to the front burner.”

Described as the “youngest and fastest growing” continent on the planet, Meeks applauded the Biden-Harris administration’s strategies rolling out for Africa and the Diaspora especially helping to propel things forward.

“All of us African Americans, African descendants of slaves, African immigrants with direct ties to the continent become the most successful young African leaders. … Nothing happens without young people.”

Ugandan reporter Arthur Arnold Wadero told the Michigan Chronicle that as a millennial reporting in East Africa and attending the summit, he is looking forward to seeing how the sectors of health and education are transformed from this point forward.

“Like any part of the world (people want to) make best of their life,” Wadero said adding that as a reporter over the past seven years his life centers on covering protests and facing “extreme conditions” with “little pay.”

“(There is a) need for resilience in what you do,” Wadero, 33, said adding that the “whole world” is watching the conference. 

“There are so many promises, so many takeaways … how often do you find 40-plus heads of state in one space for three days? It’s awesome … thrilling and wonderful experience.”

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about youth initiatives during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Dec. 13-15 in Washington D.C.

Vice President Kamala Harris agrees.

“So, Africa cannot help but be in the future business. I strongly believe that the creativity and ingenuity of Africa’s young leaders will help us shape the future of the world and that their ideas — your ideas — and innovations and initiatives will benefit the entire world,” Harris said adding that Africa’s young leaders represent 60 percent of the population that are under the age of 25 or nearly 850 million young people on the continent. By 2050, that figure will grow to 1.2 billion people — 1.2 billion young people. “This represents an enormous potential for the world in terms of economic growth and for social and political progress.” 

For more information on the Young African Leaders Initiative visit usaid.gov/yali.

Check back at michiganchronicle.com for Part 3 on what’s next for Africa.

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